Coronavirus is quickly expanding outside of China and generating alarm in many parts of the world. The virus, which started in the city of Wuhan, caused 2,619 deaths, 27 of which happened outside China. There are now about 79,300 cases, 1,500 outside China, mainly in South Korea.
The coronavirus is well on its way to becoming a global pandemic.
Although Covid-19 is not officially a pandemic, it’s increasingly looking like one. More and more places around the world are experiencing local outbreaks, and there are concerns that the spread of the outbreak might not be contained — in other words, the coronavirus might be going global.
South Korea reported today 231 new cases, bringing the total to 833, the largest number in a country outside of China. This is also the largest daily increase to date in the country, according to data disclosed on the website of the Korea Centers for Disease Control (KCDC).
On Sunday the Asian country decreed the maximum alert for the accelerated spread of the coronavirus in less than a week. From 30 cases on February 17, it has gone to the current 833, with seven deaths. Daegu, the fourth largest city in the country with 2,5 million inhabitants, and the adjacent Cheongdo County have been declared “special care areas”.
The expansion of the disease has also caused national football championship matches to be postponed, which should have happened last weekend. Several countries have banned or restricted the entry of travelers from South Korea; Israel was the first to impose a total ban, followed by Jordan and Bahrain. Other countries have increased controls on passengers.
In Iran, fifty people died so far this month from coronavirus in the city of Qom. There are more than 20 in quarantine in the city, which is located 120 kilometers south of Tehran and hosts a popular theological center. Iran has already been isolated by closing its neighboring countries’ borders.
In Italy, the famous Venice Carnival, which attracts thousands of visitors Italy every year, came to an end last Sunday, two days ahead of schedule, after the country recorded the “worst outbreak” of the new coronavirus in European territory, with five confirmed deaths.
The announcement of the early closing of the traditional party came less than 24 hours after the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reported on the imposition of “extraordinary measures” to contain the progression of the disease. The measures could last for several weeks.
A dozen locations in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto are now effectively isolated under the new government quarantine plan. The authorities have asked about 50,000 people from the villages in two northern regions not to leave their homes.
The European Commission does not consider suspending travel within the Schengen area, despite the expansion of the coronavirus in Italy, although it prepares several contingency plans. EU commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic said in Brussels said 230 million will be allocated to fight the virus. The Schengen area includes most countries in the European Union and means that people can travel from one place to the other without undergoing border checks.
The European Health Commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, has stressed that if travel restrictions are imposed in the Schengen area, they must be provided and coordinated between the Member States, and based on scientific evidence. “For the moment, WHO has not advised to impose travel or trade restrictions,” Kyriakides said.
In the meantime, in China, the focus of the virus, the National Popular Assembly (ANP), the equivalent of the Chinese Parliament, has finally approved to postpone its legislative session as a precaution against the epidemic and to allow delegates to focus on fighting the disease in their different regions.
It was an unprecedented decision. Never until now, since the Cultural Revolution, the annual event, which usually opens on March 5, had been postponed. No date has been set to hold the session in the coming months, as reported by the official Chinese media.
We might soon have to switch tactics. Although China’s containment efforts have been impressive, they might still not be enough to truly get the job done. If this is indeed the case, we should switch from trying to contain the disease to focusing on resilience, similar to what we do with influenza.